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That Time I Blogged for 26 Days From A-Z for Autism Awareness Month

son standing in fountain

In honor of Autism Awareness month in April of last year I¬†started a project to raise my own awareness on my small little corner of¬†Facebook by lettering each day A-Z and sharing a little bit what autism is and¬†what autism isn’t.

I have two beautiful boys both on the spectrum. They couldn’t be¬†any more different, and while each have their unique challenges, they also each have¬†their unique strengths.

Initially, without telling too much, I shared¬†how things might look a little behind closed doors along with a personal photo¬†to my friends who might not otherwise get that glimpse. But as the days in April passed and I became¬†more comfortable with the safety of Facebook, a change took place with my¬†friends on my page. Instead of the usual 20 or so likes I would get per post, I¬†started getting hundreds. I also started to understand that perhaps the wrong¬†kind of awareness exists. Friends and colleagues began to approach me to let me¬†know just that, and thanked me for my efforts. Acquaintances stopped me to ask¬†questions. I had others quietly ask me for advice since they weren’t¬†“out” yet with their concerns about their child. Others even reached out to offer help in some way.

Somewhere around “K” in the A-Z tale, my husband,¬†who is a wildly private person, changed as well. He¬†too was being stopped by supportive¬†members our community. He had a change of heart. For the first time, he let me know that he was proud of us as a family¬†and that he believed I was changing for the better through the process of¬†writing. I had not changed. I finally¬†felt I had permission to be open. The¬†more he saw he could trust that I would still protect some of the more personal¬†aspects of our life while still being honest, the more open and honest I could¬†become. The process was cathartic for¬†both of us.¬†

I asked my 12-year-old to read and approve every post or blog pertaining to him. My slow-to-warm, seemingly uninvested Aspie now looks forward to reading my writing and even asked to attend a large and lengthy public speaking engagement where I will be presenting.

Though I started with something on April 1… 26 days later I ended¬†with something else.

April is Autism Awareness Month. In our world where every day is Autism Awareness Month. I¬†erroneously thought ‚Äúwe don’t need any more awareness‚Ķ unless you have not¬†interacted with the world at all in the last 10 years, everyone has heard of autism‚Ķ everyone knows someone with autism‚Ķ enough already with the awareness‚Ķ‚ÄĚ

But I’ve¬†found, most people who don’t really know someone with autism don’t understand it, even though¬†they thought they did, and they¬†certainly don’t hop on autism awareness¬†blogs to understand more. I don’t fault¬†them for that. I would not either. I am¬†a mother of two beautiful boys. Though¬†their autism defines them about as much as their big brown eyes, this projection that we are just like every other family makes everyone around us more¬†comfortable but ultimately becomes the elephant in the room. Not just for those who want to ask questions¬†around my silent insistence things are ‚Äújust the way they are‚ÄĚ but by letting¬†my kids think they are just like everyone else‚Ķ when they are well aware¬†they are not, leaving them wondering why their feelings are incongruent with¬†the reality we try to portray.

So this¬†year I once again started¬†one more blog A-Z. It’s not everyone’s journey in autism, but it is ours, and it has been¬†healing for all of us to say it out loud.

Follow this journey on Running Through Water.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: If you could go back to the day you (or a loved one) got a diagnosis, what would you tell yourself? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.